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In the Media: Information Released About Officer Who Shot Gaines; Diversity in Medical Marijuana

Baltimore City skyline.
Phil Gold

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Police officer who fatally shot Korryn Gaines also involved in deadly shooting in 2007

"The Baltimore County police officer who fatally shot Korryn Gaines last month is a 16-year veteran of the department who was also involved in a deadly shooting in 2007, the Police Department said Thursday.

"Police officials identified him as Officer First Class Ruby of the Support Operations Division. The department does not release the first names of officers involved in shootings under an agreement between the county and the police union.

"Gaines, 23, was killed inside her Randallstown apartment after an hours-long standoff with police. Her death has sparked protests and questions from civil-rights activists across the country.

"Police waited an unusually long period of time before releasing Ruby's last name, citing threats against their personnel. The public identification of the officer came one month after Gaines was killed. Typically, the name is released within about 48 hours.

"Police Chief Jim Johnson decided 'we had reached a point both with the investigation and in terms of the safety issues that were concerning us several weeks ago that he felt it was time for him to release the name,' spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. 'It was a difficult decision for him to make,' she added.

"Officers went to Gaines' apartment Aug. 1 to serve warrants on her, stemming from a traffic stop, and on her boyfriend in connection to an alleged assault on Gaines. A standoff ensued, and police say Gaines threatened to kill Ruby and pointed her gun at him. He opened fire on her, and when she shot back, Ruby fired again, according to police.

"Ruby also shot Gaines' 5-year-old son, Kodi, in the cheek while firing at Gaines, police said.

"The case has drawn questions from groups including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which last month asked police for information and documents about the shooting and departmental policies.

"Legal Defense Fund President SherrilynIfill said Thursday she still has questions — including whether anyone with mental health expertise was with police, about details of the officers' entry into the home, and why Ruby opened fire when a child was nearby."

Read the full article at the Baltimore Sun

From the Baltimore Sun: Seeking more diversity, medical marijuana commissioner sets meeting with attorney general

"Leaders of the state's medical marijuana commission are meeting with Attorney General Brian E. Frosh next week to figure out how to achieve more racial diversity when the panel awards licenses to companies to dispense the drug.

"The Medical Cannabis Commission has come under scrutiny because most of the 30 companies to which it has awarded preliminary licenses to grow or process marijuana are led by white men.

"None of the companies that won lucrative licenses in the state's fledgling industry are led by African-Americans. About a third of the state's population is African-American.

"Another 811 applications for up to 94 dispensary licenses are pending. They are being reviewed and ranked without regard for the identity of the applicants.

"Commission Chairman Paul Davies said Thursday that he and executive director Patrick Jameson will discuss with Frosh legal ways to assure racial diversity among those winners.

"'We want to achieve as much minority participation as absolutely possible,' Davies said.

"A spokeswoman for Frosh confirmed the meeting. It follows comments from the Democratic attorney general's office that the commission could have done more to achieve racial diversity in the first place.

"Davies released a letter Thursday defending the commission for not taking race into account when it awarded 15 preliminary licenses for growers and 15 preliminary licenses for processors last month.

"The law that allowed the creation of a medical marijuana industry in the state directed officials to consider applicants' race when weighing license applications. But assistant attorney general opined last year that considering race or ethnicity would be unconstitutional, and the commission dropped the requirement.

"In a letter to Del. Christopher R. West, Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe suggested that considering race or ethnicity would be constitutional only to remedy past discrimination against minorities in the medical marijuana business.

"The commission received 146 applications for licenses to grow medical cannabis and 124 applications for licenses to process it.

"The applications — with companies' identifying information removed — were reviewed and ranked by Towson University's Regional Economic Studies Institute before being sent to the commission. Commissioners then reviewed and voted on the applications, still with companies' identifying information redacted.

"Those that were awarded preliminary licenses now must pay large licensing fees to the state and undergo a series of inspections before obtaining licenses to operate.

"Davies said Thursday that the commission was under pressure to get medical marijuana to patients, and developing a method to take racial diversity into account could have delayed the process by as much as 12 months."

Read the full article

From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore task force aims to warn drug users away from fentanyl on the streets

"When drug users buy heroin on the streets of Baltimore, they don't know whether it also contains fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller so powerful that small amounts can kill.

"Now the city plans to tell them when and where the heroin is likely to be adulterated.

"By using real-time overdose data from emergency responders, city health officials plan to identify fentanyl hot spots and head there with warnings. They will inform providers of drug treatment and services to the homeless, area residents and others, who can share the information with drug users or people who know them.

"The city health department spearheaded creation of a fentanyl task force, which brings together representatives of several city agencies.

"'It's so dangerous that getting ahead of this as much as we can is crucial,' health department spokesman Sean Naron said. 'Users are very scared of fentanyl, but they don't always know it's there.'

"The number of fentanyl-related fatal overdoses in Baltimore increased tenfold from 2013 to 2015. The city suffered 260 heroin-related overdose deaths last year and 160 fentanyl-related deaths.

"The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration believes the fentanyl is made in labs overseas and mixed into heroin here because it is cheaper. A dose sold as heroin can be entirely fentanyl.

"The task force is the latest move by the city and state health departments to counter rising overdose deaths. Officials have sought to increase access to treatment and have trained an army of private citizens to use the opioid overdose antidote naloxone."

Read the full article at the Baltimore Sun